The O&O Supermarkets were a series of worker cooperatives in the Philadelphia area in the 1980s. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1357, in partnership with Philadelphia Area Cooperative Enterprise (PACE), organized the first two stores in 1982 as part of a negotiation to keep the stores from being shut down by A&P. Three other buy-outs followed, and one supermarket was started from scratch with city support. At peak in 1987, there were six stores, and more than 700 workers participating in cooperative education programs.
Thirty years ago this October, Union Cab was born out of the ruins of a strike at another cab company. It has grown from 13 cabs and 45 drivers that first year to 65 cabs and 171 drivers; the company also has five mechanics, 24 dispatchers and a three-person information technology department and an administrative staff.
Besides being known for its iconic yellow taxis, Union Cab also has a reputation for having lots of writers, musicians, artists and PhD holders within its ranks. But that's not what makes Union Cab interesting, says account manager John McNamara. In fact, the stereotype just diminishes what the company has achieved, he argues.
"We're working-class people who can run our own company without the parental figure of a boss in charge," McNamara says. He says Union Cab has proven that working people can manage their own company "efficiently, financially and in a humane way." And while it's true that many members have college degrees, the company's success is due to "working-class people who are willing to give time to run this company and make it work. That's something people forget."
"Fast forward through four decades of tortuous Bay-area foodie in-fighting and radical politics and Rainbow has emerged at the top of the lentil pile, with a corporate structure very much its own: 260-odd workers (there are no "employees") across 14 autonomous departments, with an annually elected committee representing each (to qualify as a corporate member with a vote, you have to work for 1,000 hours or nine months, attend "orientations" and – gulp – pass a membership test). There is an elected board of directors drawn from the workers, but as Kemp and Gilmore admitted while extolling the virtues of Rainbow's egalitarian ethos, it can take an awful long time to get anything done. And though he says there's capacity to expand the current Rainbow Grocery operation, Gilmore believes a collective is as only strong as its personal relationships, which would suffer with the advent of a chain of stores."
The Federation for Economic Democracy (or FEDO) was a network of local technical assistance organizations advocating worker cooperatives and self-management from 1975 to 1977 in the eastern United States. The federation's efforts focused on converting closing factories and businesses, an epidemic problem of the era, to democratic workplaces.
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